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Charles Alfred Harper

Question: What happened to Charles Alfred Harper’s journal that he kept on his journey to the Salt Lake Valley in 1847?

Answer: Charles Alfred Harper was born January 27, 1817, at Upper Providence, Township Montgomery Co., Pennsylvania. He was the second of three sons born to Eleanor Evans and Jessie Harper. His people were among the early settlers of America. His father and grandfather were born in Pennsylvania. His mother was a Quaker. When Charles was five years old, his father died.

Little is known of the boyhood of Charles Alfred. Undoubtedly he was schooled in the stern manner of that period. A granddaughter, Eleanor Peterson Ure, recalls he spoke of graduating from Yale University at 23 years of age. Charles married his first wife, Lavina Wollerton Dilworth December 26, 1839 in Pennsylvania. Their first children were twins, and were born and died the same day in Pennsylvania.

His first wife, Lavina, became a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the year 1841. Prior to his conversion, he did not like the Mormons, and when his wife became one, he told her he would not walk down the street with a Mormon. So he walked down one side and she the other. One day Charles walked away from home, and said he would be back soon. It was not long before his wife heard him coming home singing, seeming to be very happy and also wringing wet. “Yes, I did it today and I am the happiest man alive.” Thus he was baptized in May 1842, and they moved to Nauvoo, Illinois, to be with the Saints.

During their stay in Nauvoo, Charles was acquainted with the Prophet Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. His dear friend was Heber C. Kimball. He shared in the persecution of the saints in Nauvoo until the year 1845. Charles had a nice home and his own shop. He was indispensable during these hectic times. He was busy night and day repairing wagons, etc., to equip outfits for emigration to the West. Two more children were born in Nauvoo, and of the two, one died and was buried there, in the early part of 1847. With their remaining one small son they joined the Saints at Winter Quarters.

Charles was in Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company that entered the Salt Lake Valley on July 22, 1847. He was put in charge of a committee to plant the seeds and fix the ploughs. His personal journal was placed in the Historians office in Salt Lake in 1971. It was a small 3 X 5 worn, pocket record bound in fine brown leather. It contains the journey record of the first migration of settlers to the Salt Lake Valley.

Early in August Charles returned back over that pioneer trail to Winter Quarters to join his wife and son. They had been unable to make the trip. In the spring of 1848 they set out to join the Saints in the Salt Lake Valley in Heber C. Kimball’s Company. At the old Fort Laramie, their emigrant train rested a few days and their second son (fifth child) was born on July 22, 1848.

Charles was one of the first to build in Holladay, Utah, and was one of the largest land owners there. The first pubic school was in Big Cottonwood, and was started by Abraham Hunsaker and Charles A. Harper in the year 1849. Lyman Woods was the first teacher and Charles A Harper, Isaac Harrison and Duncan Casper were elected trustees. Another son was born in 1851 but only lived two years. Charles was then called on a mission to England.

During his first mission to England, he converted a young English girl, Harriet Taylor. She came to America and crossed the plains in Captain Charles Harper’s company, reaching Salt Lake Valley in October 1855. On her nineteenth birthday, in December 1855, she was married in the Endowment House at Salt Lake City, to Charles Alfred Harper, as his second wife. In 1856 his first wife had another son, Alfred, but he lived only 3 months.

In 1856 Charles was requested by the Church to settle Carson, Nevada. And with his young wife Harriet, they moved there. Their first baby, named Harriet, was born there. They had some most sever experiences and privations. The food supply was very meager. Finally the Church recalled this mission as being a failure, and they returned to their home. His second wife gave him two more daughters, Elizabeth and Emmaline. Elizabeth fell into an open fireplace while very small and died of burns. His first wife had two more sons and another set of twins.

Parley’s Park Home

About 1860 he and his second wife obtained property in Parley’s Park, Summit Co. Utah. They lived there for eighteen years, and were engaged in the sheep and cattle industry. Two girls and three boys were born while here. He was called upon by Brigham Young to help establish places in Southern Utah and Arizona.

Home in Lehi, Arizona

In 1887 Charles purchased a farm of forty acres in Lehi, Arizona. It was raw and covered with mesquite. At nearly seventy years of age he grubbed this off and built a brick home where he and his first wife lived for about eight years before they returned to their home in Holladay.

Adobe home in Holliday

Charles held various responsible positions in the Holladay Ward. He was a lover of music and literature and loved to take part in the old dances and good times. He was also interested in community and political affairs. Charles had eleven children with his first wife and eight with the second wife. Of the total of nineteen children, seven died in infancy and one at age 22.

The following is an extract from the Salt Lake Tribune: “Charles A. Harper, a pioneer of “47, was found dead in his home at Holladay, Salt Lake County, yesterday. The discovery was made by a daughter-in-law, who notified other members of the family. It appears that this gentleman, who was eighty-three years of age, had sought the quiet of his own room and fallen asleep. He had not been ill nor was his death expected, though he was getting quite feeble. His death was due to heart failure, as determined by an inquest conducted by Justice Stevenson.”

Charles Alfred Harper died on April 24, 1900 at his home in Holladay. He was buried in the Holladay Memorial Park.

Source: “Charles Alfred Harper Life Sketch,’ by Julie Jeppson Harward, 18 March 1996,;

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